On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

Posts tagged ‘Holland’

Leiden – Delft Loop

My intent in writing this blog was to give family and friends a bit of an insight to my experiences while on my latest cycling trip. Circumstances, as noted in my first entry, were that I did not have the inclination, nor sometimes the ability (no internet), to keep it updated every day. Normally, I would make a few notes on what happened during the day – where we lunched, what we saw, etc – on my phone or even make a voice recording or two. I also tracked all the rides on my Garmin 305 and took a lot of pictures, which were great for jogging my memory. But jogging my memory only works for as long as I can remember stuff :/ And this ride was the only one that I neglected to make any notes on. So, armed (and alarmed) with a steadily rusting memory, here goes:

June 11 – Wednesday.  This day was to be our final, and longest, bike ride of our time with Ad. Blessed with another blue sky and warm temperatures, we again struck out from our hotel in Leiden, this time heading to Delft. Once out of the city, it was another relaxing ride on well maintained bike paths beside canals and pastures, cattle and sheep, and by acres of greenhouses. Maintaining an easy cruising speed of 16-18 kph for about 25 kilometres, we stopped for a mid-morning beer/coffee at a conveniently located café with a lovely patio. We were greeted by a pet peacock in the parking lot who seemed none too happy to see us, as it squawked and took flight into a neighbour’s yard. The café staff, if 1 person can be called a staff, was happy to have the business though.

Passing by small canals suitable for pleasure boats. With bikes tied on the back!

Passing by small canals suitable for pleasure boats. With bikes tied on the back!

The typically beautiful separated bike trails on the way to Delft.

The typically beautiful separated bike trails on the way to Delft, alongside pastures and farm fields.

Sometimes trails and pastures became one and the same.

Sometimes trails and pastures became one and the same.

Wooly, but cute, moving obstacles.

Wooly, but cute, moving obstacles.

Greenhouses - acres and acres of them...

Greenhouses – acres and acres of them…

And more acres and acres. They went on forever on this trail.

And more acres and acres. They went on forever on this trail.

Spooked up a peacock when we went to a cafe. Hopefully not too traumatized.

Spooked up a peacock when we went to a cafe. Didn’t know they could fly that well.

90-minites into our ride, time for our first beer, or second coffee.

90-minites into our ride, time for our first beer, or second coffee.

Once on the trail again, the ride continued through woods, over pretty little bridges, and beside more pastures and canals, until we reached Delft around noon. As with all the other towns and cities over here, the market square is the focal point of tourist activity. Bounded on one end by the New Church (completed in 1498, 200 years after the Old Church), on the other by the city hall, and on the sides by restaurants and stores, the Delft market was a scenic and, surprisingly, quiet place to relax and have some lunch. Ad gave us 2 hours to sightsee so the group split up according to their priorities – some to eat right away (it was noon, after all), some to check out the New Church, and others to window shop. A few of us headed over to the visitor center for maps and on the way passed a bike store, just a block off the square! Unlike most of the other bike stores we went to, this one was fully supplied with an assortment of clothing – including some nice looking jerseys. So, with one more jersey added to my expanding international collection – 3 from France (2 years ago), 2 from Holland – we went off to check out the New Church.

The church is the burial place of the princes of Orange, as well as more recent Dutch royalty. The public can’t visit the royal crypt but the monument to William of Orange, assassinated in Delft in 1584, is quite prominent. Also in the church are many posters describing the history of the House of Orange and the political intrigue of the times. It was like reading Game of Thrones, but more bloody! Consider the Wikipedia entry for William of Orange, and how his assassin was dealt with:

“He was tortured before his trial on 13 July, where he was sentenced to be brutally – even by the standards of that time – killed. The magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disembowelled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off.”

The New Church in Delft. New because the Old Church, a few blocks away, is 200 years older :/

The New Church in Delft. New because the Old Church, a few blocks away, is 200 years older :/

Organ in the New Church. Typically huge.

Organ in the New Church. Typically huge.

Monument crypt of William of Orange in the New Church.

Monument crypt of William of Orange in the New Church.

Delft city hall, at the other end of the markt square from the church.

Delft city hall, at the other end of the markt square from the church.

I would have liked to spend more time in the church, climb the bell tower, and visit the Old Church just a few blocks away but time was running short and we still had to have lunch. Among the many restaurants on the square, we found one that had delicious bagel sandwiches and fruit smoothies – quite a change from our usual beer lunch!

Delft town square reflected in a cheese store window (thanks Donna/Darryl).

Delft town square reflected in a cheese store window (thanks Donna).

We could have spent more time in Delft, since there was a lot more to see, but Ad was due to leave for his home in North Holland in the evening. It was at least a 3-hour trip by train and bike, and we wanted to have supper with him so we got back on the bikes shortly after 2 pm. The trip back to Leiden was, again, on beautiful scenic trails and was a joy. Two hours later, we arrived at the rental shop, turned our bikes in, and walked the kilometre back to the hotel.

A more rustic trail on the way back to Leiden.

A more rustic trail on the way back to Leiden.

Mike on his single-speed.

Mike on his single-speed (thanks Darryl).

Still passing windmills. Such a scenic route.

Still passing windmills. Such a scenic route.

Chaos reigned at the bike rental shop. An American girls field hockey team was returning theirs at the same time to a thoroughly disorganized clerk.

Chaos reigned at the bike rental shop. An American girls field hockey team was returning theirs at the same time to a thoroughly disorganized clerk.

After a nice supper at El Gaucho, an Argentinean restaurant in Leiden that we had eaten at a few days before, we bade goodbye to Ad. The next 4 days would be bicycle-free (almost).

After our bike/barge week, I was asked which day was my favourite. I couldn’t pick out one at the time but, after the Delft trip, I’d have to say that it was this day. Why, I’m not sure, but the combination of perfect weather, cloudless sky, scenic trails, more time on the bike, fewer stops, and Delft itself all contributed. I found it to be the most relaxing and enjoyable day of the 10 days that we rode. A perfect end to a wonderful bike trip!

Route link: Leiden to Delft loop

Rode 60 km

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Leiden – Den Haag Loop

June 10 – Tuesday.  We stored the rental bikes in the hotel basement lockup overnight so we didn’t have to make the 1 km trek back to the shop in the morning. As such, we were able to mount up shortly after 0900 under warm, sunny skies and head southwest out of Leiden on our way to the coast, then inland to The Hague. We skirted to the south of the Valkenburg Naval Air Base, with nary a plane to be heard or seen, on nearly abandoned trails. After the holiday long weekend, most locals were back at work and the trails were left mainly to the tourists. Eleven kilometres later we were back in the dunes area, heading south, just a kilometre east of the North Sea. We were on a fietsroute (specifically, the Noordzee Route), one of the many long distance cycle trails, as opposed to the short commuting trails, that run throughout the country. It was not only scenic, with the sand hills and greenery, but the trail itself was pretty fancy, constructed of well laid cross-hatched brickwork. Talk about your labour-intensive project!

The elaborate brickwork trail to Scheveningen. Follow the tawny brick road!

The elaborate brickwork trail to Scheveningen. Follow the tawny brick road!

Gerry and Mike waiting patiently for the group to start riding again.

Gerry and Mike waiting patiently for the group to start riding again.

The brick trail led us into the Scheveningen area of Den Haag, an attractive seaside resort. We locked our bikes up on a main street across from a very imposing building, the Dutch flag fluttering off many of it’s domes and turrets. I initially thought that Ad was going to show us some high-profile government building but it turned out to be a 5-star hotel, the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel. Wanting to get to the beach just beyond it and not seeing a way around, we opted to just traipse through their lobby – in the front door and out the back. Passing by the hotel dining room, I was reminded of Versailles by the opulence of the place! Ad told us that the hotel was the first concert venue for the Rolling Stones in Holland, back in 1964. A star plaque was inlaid in the back deck of the hotel to commemorate the event (even though the concert had spawned a riot), as well as ones for Golden Earring and Bon Jovi.

Locking the bikes up across the street from the Kurhuis hotel.

Locking the bikes up across the street from the Kurhuis hotel.

The ornate dining room of the Kurhuis.

The ornate dining room of the Kurhuis.

The stars in the walk of fame on the back patio of the hotel - The Rolling Stones, Golden Earring, and Bon Jovi.

The stars in the walk of fame on the back patio of the hotel – The Rolling Stones, Golden Earring, and Bon Jovi. Appropriately placed in the shadow of a half naked woman.

No explanation necessary.

No explanation necessary.

The size of the beach was immense, even larger than the beaches of Katwijk and Noordwijk! With it being a regular workday, there were very few locals and tourists to clutter it up. An out of commission (bankrupt) boardwalk blocked the horizon to the north but the south was just an expanse of empty well-groomed beach, sea and sky. What a summer playground!

The beach looking north, with the now unused boardwalk cutting across it.

The beach looking north, with the now unused boardwalk cutting across it.

The beach, looking south. Sand, sea and sky!

The beach, looking south. Sand, sea and sky to the horizon!

A little more than an hour later, we were off again. After a few kilometres, we passed another war monument. But this time, instead of honouring fallen foreign soldiers, this monument honoured Dutch citizens. It was The Indies Monument, erected in memory of all Dutch citizens and soldiers who died in battle, in prison camps or during forced labour during World War II as a result of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. Ad said that, although he had seen it many times on TV in ceremonies, he had never seen it in person. It was ironic that, by leading a bunch of Canadians around his country, he too was able to experience some of his country’s history.

The Indies Monument, honouring the Dutch who died by Japanese hands during WW2 in the former Dutch East Indies.

The Indies Monument, honouring the Dutch who died by Japanese hands during WW2 in the former Dutch East Indies.

Not long after that, we came to the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice – the principal judiciary of the United Nations. We were not allowed in the building, or even onto the gated grounds, but it did have an interesting public museum attached that explained the history of the place and it’s function in international affairs.

The Peace Palace in The Hague.

The Peace Palace in The Hague.

Ad gave us 2.5 hours in downtown Den Haag to check the place out. We got maps from a visitor’s info kiosk but, rather than explore museums, Gerry and I spent the time looking for bike stores and having coffee/lunch. The sky had been darkening all morning and, by the time we were set loose in the city, the rain started coming down. Although we visited about half a dozen bike shops and sporting goods stores, we were unsuccessful finding jerseys that were identifiably Dutch. Ad later told us that, unlike the ubiquitous orange Holland football jerseys, the Dutch do not trumpet their country on cycling apparel. Both Ad and Tom commented on the number of Canada jerseys that our group wore, noting that Canadians like to be recognized as such (we told them that we do that so we wouldn’t be confused with Americans). We did, however, find a very comfortable coffee shop and went there twice (friendly and attractive waitress) to wait out the rain.

When we met Ad back at our appointed meeting place, he told me to get on my bike and follow him – he had found a bike store for me about a 5-minute ride away, but they were closing and we had to hurry! Biking in the city, especially a Dutch city, is not for the faint of heart. The locals know all the rules and know where they are going. Trying to follow Ad, speeding down rain-slicked sidewalks, lanes, and roads busy with traffic, took my riding experience there to another level altogether. Unfortunately, although the store did have some nice looking jerseys, none were in my size. So back we sped to our meeting place where everyone was now waiting for us in a light drizzle.

The 90-minute trip back to Leiden was damp but not cold, fortunately. The only mishap was a tube with a slow leak, requiring Ad to stop periodically to pump it up. Thankfully, it never went completely flat.

Pumping up a slow leak. Changing a tube on an internal hub bike, especially on the rear, is a huge pain. We had patches but, thankfully, stopping to replenish air every 5-10 km was sufficient to get it home.

Pumping up a slow leak. Changing a tube on an internal hub bike, especially on the rear, is a huge pain. We had patches but, thankfully, stopping to replenish air every 5-10 km was sufficient to get it home.

Gray and drizzly but not cold.

Gray and drizzly but not cold.

Route : Leiden to The Hague

Rode: 46 km

Leiden – Katwijk – Noordwijk Loop

June 9 – Monday.  Back on the bikes. We went to the rental shop to pick up our bikes, and a motley group they were. Some 8-speeds, some 3-speeds, some with hand brakes, and all internal hub. Mine was the only single speed coaster of the bunch. I haven’t rode one of those since I was 12 but what the hell. I have seen lots of locals riding them so they are obviously suitable for the terrain. Except for the split second of terror the first few times I went to grab the non-existent hand brakes and then realize that I had to use my feet instead, the bike wasn’t too bad. The gearing was such that I had no trouble on the minor elevation changes that pass for hills here (the steepest “hills” are the canal overpasses), although my cadence got a bit high when our speed got over 23 or so.

After adjusting all the bikes to fit, Ad led us out of Leiden at 10 a.m. Twenty minutes later, we were crossing the Rhine on a cute little free ferry, only big enough to take half our group at a time.

Tiny community ferry across the Rhine.

Tiny community ferry across the Rhine.

Soon we were in Katwijk, which is only 11 km away from Leiden and on the coast of the North Sea. It is beach community and very popular with the locals and tourists for good reason. It was our first encounter with the beaches of Holland and they are freakin’ HUGE! We stopped for a coffee, then continued another 10 km up the coast to Noordwijk for a longer break. The sand dunes between the 2 towns are spectacular and not what I expected of the Dutch countryside. Since it was sunny, 27C, and a long holiday weekend to boot, the trails and towns were packed with locals and tourists.

Bikes parked by the beach in Katwijk.

Bikes parked by the beach in Katwijk.

Bike trail through the dunes between Katwijk and Noordwijk, with a separate walking trail (unpaved) off to the side.

Bike trail through the dunes between Katwijk and Noordwijk, with a separate walking trail (unpaved) off to the side.

After grabbing some lunch, a few of us went wading in the North Sea. The beach sand was a perfect consistency – not too fine, not too coarse – and felt great underfoot. It was a little disconcerting to see how many jellyfish were floating around though. We weren’t sure if they packed a punch or not so we tried to avoid them. The ones that washed up on shore looked like big eyeballs :/ The other waders didn’t seem too perturbed though.

The beach at Noordwijk.

The beach at Noordwijk.

Lucille collecting shells and avoiding jellyfish.

Lucille collecting shells and avoiding jellyfish.

Shimmery eyeball-looking jellyfish.

Shimmery eyeball-looking jellyfish washed up on shore.

After we had played/ate/drank for 2 hours, it was time to get back on the bikes and continue our loop back to Leiden. Great day, great trails, great scenery, great group.

Trying to find our bikes among the hundreds parked at the beach.

Trying to find our bikes among the hundreds parked at the beach.

The seniors peleton on the way back to Leiden.

The seniors peleton on the way back to Leiden.

Donna, Gerry and Lucille obviously not having any fun.

Donna, Gerry and Lucille obviously not having any fun.

Rode 50 km for the day.

Route: Leiden – Katwijk – Noordwijk – Leiden

A Weekend in Leiden

June 7 – Saturday.  We said good bye to the barge crew and most of our group set out on the 20 minute walk to Amsterdam Central Station at around 8:45a.m. A beautiful morning and an easy walk even though we were pulling luggage. Got our ticket to Leiden and found the right track (the station is huge) and we were on the train by 9:20. The route took us past Schiphol airport so there were a bunch of other people lugging heavy bags around too. Half hour to Schiphol, another half hour to Leiden and a 5 minute walk to our hotel, which was right across the street from the Central Station. Things were going too smoothly to last! Got to the Ibis Leiden and found out that, even though they had the confirmed reservations for our room, they did not have a room for us! WTF!! Just the 3 rooms that required twin beds though – the other couples that booked double beds were fine. Obviously there was a screw-up when the booking was made. The desk clerk, Pricilla, was adamant that we had to stay in rooms that they found for us, after much calling around, at a Hilton – a 10 minute car ride away. So she booked the Hilton rooms (more expensive, and she refused to pay the difference) but said that, if some of the Ibis booked people didn’t show up by 6 p.m., they would give their rooms to us. Whoop-dee-do.  Grrr… So, feeling more than a little pissed with the Ibis Hotel chain, we set out to wander the city and see the sights. And do a much needed laundry.

Taking our luggage for a walk, on the way to Central Station (across the pedestrian bridge in left distance)

Taking our luggage for a walk, on the way to Central Station (across the pedestrian bridge in left distance)

The barge harbour, with Central Station just out of sight in left distance.

The barge harbour, from the Gandalf, with Central Station just out of sight in left distance.

Leiden is an old university town, birthplace and early home of Rembrandt, and has the same relaxed feeling as Bruges. After finding the laundry, about a 20-minute walk from the hotel, we left off the dirty clothes and just wandered around. We would be spending 6 days here, so there was no rush to tour museums today. Canals abound and, with the similar architecture everywhere, the streets started to blur together after a while, for me anyway. Thankfully, Darryl and his iPad maps prevented us from getting hopelessly lost. And keep track of where the interesting bars and restaurants were.

Mike having, umm, lunch at the North End English Pub, waiting for laundry to finish.

Mike having, umm, lunch at the North End English Pub, waiting for laundry to finish.

Yes - those are downhill skis strapped to that car. In Leiden. In summer. There must be a story there.

Yes – those are downhill skis strapped to that car. In Leiden. In summer. There must be a story there.

Back at the laundry to pick up the now de-toxified cycling apparel, we ran into Lucille. She was in the same situation as Gerry and me – a reservation but no room – but wasn’t concerned. “Oh, I spoke to the manager. We all have rooms now.” Eh? Nick and Gordon had argued with the female desk clerk for half an hour and got nowhere. Lucille turns on the charm with the male manager and voila, all is copacetic. Maybe if the manager was on duty when we got there we would have been successful too but you can’t argue with success. Or women apparently.

Walking through Leiden with our clean laundry. Hooray!  At least the dogs weren't following us anywore, thinking there was something dead in those bags.

Gerry and Darryl walking through Leiden with our clean laundry. Hooray! At least the dogs weren’t following us anymore, thinking there was something dead in those bags.

June 8 – Sunday.  We woke to light rain in morning but, being hungry and all, that didn’t stop us from looking for some place to have breakfast. We could have noshed at the hotel but Gerry & I wanted to find a nice café somewhere. Although we saw lots of bustling cafes yesterday, everything was shut up tight this morning. We wandered down one of the main shopping streets but you could have shot a cannon down there and not hit a soul. Had the zombie apocalypse arrived? Where the hell was everybody? It seems that, on Sundays anyway, Leiden doesn’t get moving until after 10 a.m. We eventually found take away place and took our coffee and muffins across street to sit at an unopened outdoor café, albeit on damp chairs from the earlier rain.

Sunday morning, 10 a.m., in Leiden. Is anybody home?

Sunday morning, 10 a.m., in Leiden. Is anybody home?

We started to do a slow, unplanned and disorganized tour of the town. We came across the Latin school, a small building where Rembrandt had his early education. Nearby is the former jail, in the shadow of Pieterskirk, a former church now rented out for special events. The square by the jail is where all the public executions used to take place, prior to the corpses being removed for display just outside the town gates. I wonder how many of these affairs a young and impressionable Rembrandt got to witness.

The peaked building is The Latin School, where Rembrandt received his early education.

The peaked building is The Latin School, where Rembrandt received his early education.

Gerry in the square by the jail, where the public executions were held.

Gerry in the square by the jail, where the public executions were held.

Since our breakfast left a little to be desired, like food, we stopped for an early lunch at one of the, thankfully, now open cafes. After a welcome beer and sandwich, we continued to wander. We came across Brian and Susan in the Botanic Park, the oldest garden in the Netherlands and a part of the University of Leiden.

Entrance to the botanic park, part of University of Leiden.

Entrance to the botanic park, part of University of Leiden.

Every botanic park should have a stegosaurus hiding in the shrubbery.

Every botanic park should have a stegosaurus hiding in the shrubbery.

10-foot wide lily pads. Thankfully, no similar sized bullfrogs on top.

10-foot wide lily pads. Thankfully, no similar sized bullfrogs on top.

While enjoying the grounds, I noticed a sign pointing to the observatory. I had seen the domes the day before, while walking on the other side of the canal that borders the park, but hadn’t realized the buildings were part of the botanic park. Gerry and I walked over but, no sooner had we entered the museum part and started to browse, when a fellow asked us if we wanted a tour of the place. He took us and a few other people outside and attempted to open a locked gate to the grounds, to give us a surface tour of the facilities. His key card, which he said he had trouble with before, wouldn’t unlock the gate though. He said “Well, I’m not supposed to do this, but would you like to have an inside tour instead?” So he led us back into the main building, through a maze of corridors and stairs and up into one of the observatory domes. He gave us a half-hour talk on the history of the place, the telescope and how it works, and a tour of the former astronomy library (now full of law books – the astro library is now with the new astronomy building, some ways out of town). It is too bright in town to use the scopes anymore but they are still used to teach students how they function.

The 1900-era 7-inch refractor in one of the domes.

The 1900-era dual telescope (7-inch and 4-inch) in one of the domes.

The main astronomy building with 2 domes. Two more separate domes are nearby.

The main astronomy building with 2 observatory domes. Two more separate domes are nearby.

That evening, we all gathered at our hotel to meet our tour guide for the next 3 days. Ad guided Darryl, Donna and JoAnn last year on a Loire Valley trip and Darryl arranged for him to come from his home in northern Holland to lead us on 3 day trips out of Leiden. We all decided on the area/cities we wanted to see, approximate distances and such, and left the details on how to get there to Ad. It looked like we would have a great 3 more days of cycling.

Breukelen to Amsterdam

June 6 – Friday. A cloudless blue sky greeted us for our final day of riding off the Gandalf. We left our moorage in Vreeswijk around 0715 in order to get through some locks on time. We cruised through the locks at the start of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal then north on the canal until we arrived at Breukelen two hours later. The original Breukelen, not that poser in New York (formerly New Amsterdam). We off loaded the bikes for the last time and set off, passing through some upscale neighborhoods in Luenen. You could tell that from the mansions on the canals, with boathouses and fancy lake-going yachts in their “front” yards. Stopped for a break at a small locks, for pleasure boats entering the main canal system and watched the operator position a few boats, collect the €4 fare and send them on their way.

Getting ready to start the day. Blue sky is always welcome.

Getting ready to start the day. Blue sky is always welcome.

The baby locks at Luenen, sized for pleasure craft.

The baby locks at Luenen, sized for pleasure craft.

Actually, because we made better time cruising on the canal and riding than Tom had planned, this was a delaying tactic. He had scheduled a tour of a grist windmill a short distance away but it wasn’t open yet. We were getting antsy so we biked the extra kilometre to the windmill and hung around there until they were ready for our tour of De Hoop, the name of this mill. The volunteer tour guide, a former teacher, found some kindred spirits with all the former teachers in our group! He gave us the history of the grist mill, showing us how everything operated on each of the 4 floors open for the tour. The price of the tour included coffee, so all was good.

De Hoop, a historic grist mill.

De Hoop, a historic grist mill.

View from the vane deck.

View from the vane deck.

After 90 minutes, we set off again, for a short half-hour ride to the town of Abcoude, where we would have lunch. From there, we followed a towpath beside the Amstel River right into the outskirts of Amsterdam. For the whole week, a few of us had been trying to get Tom to stop at cycle shops we passed along the way to check out their stock of cycling jerseys. Unfortunately, every one was closed when we passed or time would not permit us to stop or, if we did, they did not sell jerseys. We discovered that most of the cycle shops do not sell jerseys – jackets and rain gear, yes, but not jerseys. We didn’t want anything generic – we could buy plain jerseys back home. We wanted something that identified the jersey as Dutch. Tom was promising that we would find one today and finally, in Ouder-Amstel, he came through. The De Haan shop had lots of selection and sold at least 10 jerseys, and even socks and gloves, to the group. Laden down with our purchases, we continued our ride into Amsterdam. Once off the towpaths and quiet streets, some of the riding in Amsterdam was a little daunting. The city is literally crammed with bikes and cyclists whiz past with rarely a bell or a signal. They know where they are going and it’s up to the tourists to pay attention or suffer the consequences. It was also our introduction to signal lights on the cycle lanes. Bike traffic is so thick that there are separate traffic lights for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists! After a great day of riding, we arrived at the barge docks near the NEMO science centre at 1630.

Waiting for the red bicycle light to turn green.

Waiting for the red bicycle light to turn green.

After supper on the Gandalf, Tom took us for a walking tour around town. When he is not guiding tourists on bike-barge trips, he operates a bicycle rickshaw in Amsterdam so he knows the city. We started with a canal tour, to get a water-level view, then he led us over to the red-light district. Actually red-light lanes, as all the action is in windows down narrow lanes. Lots of inebriated testosterone wandering those lanes though! Pot cafes were pretty common, judging by the smells wafting on the breeze, and people openly smoking up.

Throughout our walking tour, we would constantly be hearing sirens – police cars, ambulances, fire engines.  Is this place under attack or something?  Thankfully, it was the something.  Once a year, on the feast of Pentecost, Amsterdam emergency services give disabled kids rides in their vehicles with sirens blaring. Kind of a special day for special needs kids – neat thing to do.  Overall, a very interesting city. It’s the same size as Edmonton but infinitely more vibrant and social. Yes, it has the history but even the new buildings – the library, NEMO, the performance center, etc – attract the eye. Looking forward to spending 3 more days here after our time in Leiden next week.

One of the red-light lanes, populated by drunk tourists and pick pockets.

One of the red-light lanes, populated by drunk tourists and pick pockets.

Waxing moon over statue. Art is everywhere.

Waxing moon over statue. Art is everywhere.

Moon over canal at 10 p.m.

Moon over canal at 10 p.m.

Breukelen to Amsterdam

Breukelen to Amsterdam

Route from Breukelen to Amsterdam

Rode 39 km

Alblasserdam to Schoonhoven

June 5 – Thursday. The drawbridge blocking our moorage was scheduled to be raised at 0730 so our timing to leave Dordrecht was dictated for us. We cruised north on the river for about 5 kms, docked briefly at Alblasserdam to off load, then cycled from there. The forecast for today was rain later in the day so the original plan to cycle over 50 km was changed to do a shorter distance and hopefully beat the rain. After 5 km we entered the Kinderdijk area, which has many now non-functional windmills of the old design. In the past, these windmills were used to pump out the water from inside the dykes (very few of the windmills in Holland were used for milling grain). Thomas said that there used to be about 11,000 operating windmills but now there are only about 1100 of the classic design left. The pumping from this area is now handled by huge Archimedes screws.

Archemedes Screw, used for pumping water over the dikes.

Huge Archemedes screws, the modern way to pump water over the dikes.

Examining our Kinderdijk route, hoping we stay dry.

Examining our Kinderdijk route, hoping we stay dry.

Some of the many windmills in the Kinderdijk area.

Some of the many windmills in the Kinderdijk area.

It must have been impressive when all these windmills were operating.

It must have been impressive when all these windmills were operating. None turn now.

Fortunately, the weather forecast for rain was wrong and we were able to stay dry while riding. We rode leisurely through the windmill area, stopping often to admire the views as well as stripping off layers as we went. When the sun peeked out it through the clouds, as it did often, it was strong and everyone had dressed for a cool day with rain! Proof positive that weather forecasters the world over still have trouble getting it right :/ We stopped for coffee at Nieupoort then biked over to the ferry landing for the short trip across the river to Schoonhoven. Once there, we all spread out to different places to have lunch (and beer) and while away the time until the Gandalf was due to pick us up. Good timing, since the rain then started up in earnest. Ironically, the only time we got wet was when we were walking around the town – didn’t get wet while riding at all. Schoonhoven is a historical silversmithing town and Thomas took us to one of the shops that also functioned as a silver work museum. The manager took great pride in showing us his most elaborate and expensive items, not that anyone of us could remotely afford them. As expected, even the trinkets were overpriced.

Coffee in Nieupoort.

Coffee in Nieupoort.

Waiting for the ferry over to Schoonhoven.

Waiting for the ferry over to Schoonhoven.

This was the largest ferry we were on. Foot and bicycle traffic was secondary to vehicles.

This was the largest ferry we were on. Foot and bicycle traffic was secondary to vehicles.

Once back on board the Gandalf, we motored on the Lek River for a few hours to Vreeswijk, just south of Utrecht, where we moored for the night. Across the river from us, there were what appeared to be houseboats. But after a second look, some appeared to bi-levels. Concrete boxes sunk in the water so the house can have a lower level? Rooms for hobbits? Hope they float or that the water level doesn’t fluctuate. After supper, Tom led a short bike trip to Viannen to see the historic part of the town. On the way back to the boat, we stopped at a beach bar for (expensive) drinks and a group picture. In France, two years ago, we had our group picture taken on a play structure, so we figured why break with tradition? Tom was bemused with all these seniors clambering atop a jungle gym but he humoured us anyway.

The Gandalf moored in Vreeswijk

The Gandalf moored in Vreeswijk

Do these houses float? Bi-level houseboats?

Do these houses float? Bi-level houseboats?

Group picture on the jungle gym. Tradition has been maintained.

Group picture on the jungle gym. Tradition has been maintained.

Alblasserdam to Schoonhoven

Alblasserdam to Schoonhoven

June 5 route – Alblassrrdam to Schoonhoven

Rode 33 km before supper, 12 km after supper.

Antwerp to Dordrecht

June 4 – Wednesday. We had to get out of the Antwerp harbour before we could start riding again so the barge cast off early. We departed at 0630 and cruised for about an hour and a half through this absolutely immense harbour before docking again. Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe, after Rotterdam, and it is just a maze of canals, inlets, jetties, tank farms, warehouses, ships of all sizes and, of course, windmills. Not the traditional quaint Dutch type but the huge wind-turbine type. Although the weather was cool and drizzly, most of us sat on deck with our morning coffee and watched the bustle of activity around us. Eventually Pim, our cook, came on deck and announced that we had crossed the border and we were now in Holland.

Canals between Antwerp and our start point for the day.

The massive harbour between Antwerp and our start point for the day, just across the NL border.

A grey, overcast day in Antwerp harbour.

A grey, overcast day in Antwerp harbour.

The wind farm at our drop off point. At least 12 turbines can be seen (more if the picture was better)

The wind farm at our drop off point. At least 12 turbines can be seen (more if the picture was better)

We started our ride at a moorage on a canal just south of the Oosterschelde, the large eastern outlet of the Schelde River into the North Sea. Rain was threatening the whole time and finally started falling once we set off. Thankfully, this was to be our shortest ride of the week. We stopped for coffee, after only 14 km, at a Stayokay Hostel outside Bergen op Zoom. Trying to dry out the raingear was pretty futile but the hot coffee was welcome. It had warmed up a bit so most people were as wet under their (supposedly breathable) raingear as if they hadn’t worn any. If nothing else, the jackets and pants acted as wetsuits so no one got chilled. We took off again after a half hour break and rode a short distance to the Bergen op Zoom Canadian War Cemetery where almost 1000 WW2 Canadian soldiers are buried, killed retaking that area from the Germans. Another 90 minutes of riding in the rain and we were at out barge pick-up point, in the Scheldt-Rhine Canal just beside Tholen. We ate our lunch back on the barge and cruised canals and locks for the next 3 hours until arriving in Dordrecht. Hans backed the barge under a cute little drawbridge into a tiny moorage, just big enough to fit us, it seemed, and we settled in for the evening.

Bergen op Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. Almost 1000 Canadians buried or remembered here.

Bergen op Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. Almost 1000 Canadians buried or remembered here.

Cute little drawbridge enclosing our moorage in Dordrecht.

Cute little drawbridge enclosing our moorage in Dordrecht.

The short cycling route around the east end of the Oosterschelde.

The short cycling route around the east end of the Oosterschelde.

Route map for June 4, 2014.

Rode 32 kms.

Tag Cloud

Breaking Chains and Taking Lanes

Bicycle Adventures in the Great White North

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Everyday cycling in Edmonton.

Winnipeg CycleChick

On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

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